The next day was another long day and we kicked off early. After having an open buffet breakfast with local dairy products, we hit the road at around 8:00AM and headed for the first stop of the day, the Goreme Open-air Museum.
The museum contains the finest rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes (wall paintings). The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage list since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
The Goreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast complex composed of monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church.
Just outside the open air museum towards the car parking area you can visit one last and possibly the largest cave church of the area, Buckle (Tokali) Church.
Main Structures in the Museum:
1.Nunnery (just after the entrance turnstiles on the left) 6-7 story building has a dining hall, kitchen, rooms and chapels inside, but mostly damaged thus it’s not open currently for public visit.
2. Elmali Church: It has beautiful frescoes dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. The frescoes are narrating scenes from the Bible and the life of Christ, the Hospitality of Abraham and Three Hebrew Youths. It is called Elmalı (Apple) because of a long gone apple three in its yard.
3. Yilanli Church: The Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore, depicted on the wall. Because of this fresco, the church was named yilanli (snake).
4. Dark Church (KaranlikKilise): This Church dates back to the end of the 12th century. Some of the scenes on the walls are Deesis, Annunciation, Journey to Bethlehem, Nativity, Baptism, Raising of Lazarus, Transfiguration, Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, the Crucifixion, and Anastasis.
It is a complex made up of 4 main chambers and is divided with arches into three sections. It contains the most important samples of paintings; the building has been decorated in various periods. It has best paintings narrating the life of Christ in the most detail (Infancy, Ministry and Passion cycles).
The weather was getting rougher, gusty wind is making the trip more challenging. Luckily the rest of the trip was planned for indoor activities, pottery making which has centuries of history in the religion was our next stop.
For first hand learning, we were taken to the epicenter of handmade pottery, Avanos.
Hittites, Avanos has been the center of handmade pottery due to its proximity to the clay source. Avanos is located on the Kizilirmak river route. Kizilirmak means “red river”. It leaves red rich soil to the bank of the river and supplies the best ingredient to create the best produce. The name Avanos is believed to be derived from Zuwinasawhich literately means Pottery in Hittite Language.
The eroded soil is collected and sieved to the finest particles. It is then mixed with water and becomes soft clay. This clay is put on a rotating plate which is operated manually or by a machine. Carefully, it spins endlessly until the clay is formed to a fine pottery material ready for the final process. With the help of water and skills of the master, it shifts into many shapes. Fresh pots are then left for few days until the water dries out. Once the clay is dry enough, the pottery is baked in a wood burning oven for 10 hours in 900 Celsius.
After the baking process, the clay is now ready to be converted to kitchen utensils, souvenirs, decorations, pots, jars and more.
Lunch time again, but the place where they took us was not one of your average restaurant. Uranos Sarikaya restaurant was carved out of a single tuff rock for two weeks by 10 carving workers. The restaurant is like a concrete box without windows for ventilation and that what makes it unique, while funnels are used to get fresh air in the solid structure.
The region’s most famous dish is called Testi Kebabi (pitcher kebab). Fresh veggies and lamb meat are placed inside a local clay pitcher, cooked in slow fire and covered by clay to seal.
After an hour, it is ready for serving. It is directly served from the clay pitcher broken by the chef.
The food was delicious and the atmosphere was even better. We hesitated to leave the place but we had to. The return journey was even longer due to traffic we confronted while crossing the large cities on our way back.
For tour reservation:
Address: Sıraselviler Cd No:80 D:2, 34433 Beyoglu/İstanbul, Turkey
Phone:+90 212 245 50 51